Banner credit my dearest Jignasha ❤
Shyam Manohar Jha was a worried man. A very worried man. And worry wasn’t something that sat easily on him. He had always been a doer rather than a worrier. His finely trained legal mind automatically started looking for solutions often even before problems fully surfaced. Now you may argue that the outcome of his solutions were quite often at odds with his intentions, but such is life. And no one could accuse him of not dealing with the cards life dealt him with. Be what they may. Because in his view of the world, each problem hid a possibility to be exploited.
So his current state of worry was even more of a concern for him. He closed his eyes in frustration as he ran his fingers through his lush mane to clasp his hands behind his head while leaning back on the recliner by the Shantivan poolside. Involuntary twitches having a field day on his face.
The architects of Shantivan had taken inspiration from the Palace of Illusions in the Mahabharat it seemed, so his privacy was guaranteed. Each room had access to the pool, yet by some marvel of construction, no one could see anyone else unless it was by design. It even had a flight of stairs adjoining it which went nowhere or everywhere depending on the time of day. Sometimes a bedroom lay behind the bank of french doors on one side, and sometimes behind them lay a vista of the universe with specially twinkling stars. Some of which, strangely, promptly toppled over when glanced at by the resident Laad Governor of the house. In fact, all in all, he had yet to figure out if there was really just one pool or a multitude of identical ones!
Groaning at the absurdity of his thoughts, he forced his mind back to the matter at hand. Signs that had been staring him in the face for months flashed before him mockingly. How in the name of all that’s Lucknowi had he missed them!
The dwindling numbers in the retinue of staff at Shantivan which was now down to just one Prakash brother and the ever faithful Mohan. And they remained probably because they wouldn’t go even if they were asked to. Serving the Raizadas was a tradition that went back to their great, great, great… whatever. Service before self was an outdated notion in today’s world, according to Shyam. There now remained a solitary watchman at the gate where once had stood a minimum of two fully armed guards at any given time. The fleet of cars that had dotted the imposing driveway were down to just two. And one of those two survivors literally took each day at a time in the hands of the scion of the house.
The silver that once graced the dining table of Shantivan was replaced with steel and pyrex. The array of cuisines that had the table groaning in previous years was replaced with simple, basic fare. The mango juice twinning with the orange juice, with both tracing their origins to Frooti rather than fruit.
The lush gardens surrounding the house were silently wilting, with the only plants to smile were the ones by the poolside which were tended to by Arnav Singh Raizada himself. Shyam looked around trying to spot any new exotic saplings. They used to be planted in twos he recalled. One for nurturing and one for Laxmi to nibble on. Nani liked to indulge her darling Laxmi and Arnav liked to indulge his dear Nani. Unbelievable!
But the one thing that brought this parlous state to a head in Shyam’s mind was Arnav’s wallet. The one which he had deliberately knocked down from his hand earlier today, looking for the key to Arnav’s safe. The Raksha dhaga had been a mere ruse which Nani had lapped up blindly. He knew Arnav would give in to the emotional blackmail and would compromise by carrying it in his wallet. Far from procuring it from a wise sage, Shyam had sneaked it from the temple in Shantivan itself. But, the tattered state of the wallet had left him horrified. As had the state of Arnav’s worn out shoes which he saw up close when he bent down to retrieve the wallet. He was well aware that despite the famous H on them and on Arnav’s belt, they did not even have a passing acquaintance with the well known store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. After all, he was the one who had bought them on behalf of his gullible wife for her beloved brother. Pocketing the difference. A very large difference thanks to his judiciously compiled Chandni Chowk contact book.
Thinking of the money focused his mind on the grave situation at hand. Seems like he wasn’t going to need the key after all. What was the point of trying to alter a Will if there was nothing left to will! His heart skipped several beats as it went into freefall at the thought of an unkempt ASR struggling to make ends meet. Visions of Arnav in a dhobi’s garb hauling a sackful of unwashed laundry popped up in his eyes, vying with images of him driving an auto on the streets of Delhi. And then it dove off into the murky waters of the pool at the thought of being saddled with a clingy Anjali forever. A hamesha that had endless puja and vrat and aap bhi na on loop. Shudder. Her brother would insist his Di went to her marital house for a better life with her husband.
He saw his master plan begin to unravel before his eyes. Anjali had only ever been a means to an end. He had played her like a string and she had hummed every note obediently. Life had been going along smoothly with him being able to take frequent time-out under the pretext of work when it all got too much. Astonishing how words can be deployed so effectively to conquer minds with no blood being spilt.
They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in the case of Arnav Singh Raizada, the way to his heart was through his sister. And that is exactly what Shyam Manohar Jha aspired to. Yup. You heard it right. Shyam’s heart beat for the one and only ASR. From the moment he had seen him in a courtroom all those years back, giving evidence against a fraudulent employee, his eyes flashing fire, he had been a goner. He was practical enough to know that there was no way in hell this uber sexy god would give him a second look, so he had begun to devise a plan to keep him in his life in whichever way he could. And marrying his sister was the best one. Sure she was easy on the eyes, but Arnav Singh Raizada was that much easier on the eyes. Breakfasts had been the best time of day at Shantivan. Pranam and undying gratitude to Nani for insisting everyone be present together for that one meal.
The worry gnawing at him receded slightly as Shyam traced the watch around his wrist lovingly. It was one Arnav had given him. Well, to him and Anjali. Looking down it struck him that he hadn’t seen Arnav wear a watch in ages. Things were truly dire it seemed. The last time he had seen him wearing one was on New Year’s Eve. Shyam had been hanging around in the shadows waiting to catch a glimpse of him in the first hours of the new year, when he had seen him stride in with Akash in his usual heart stopping way, railing against NK and Khushi. It seemed Arnav had gone with Akash to Laxminagar.
Khushiji. Dejection hit him with force as he leaned forward, sinking his head in his hands.
The bigger hindrance in his path than Anjali ever was. He had seen the way Arnav and she had looked at each other at the fashion show in Lucknow, and saw what neither of them saw. The shattering of his dream. He winced as the pain hit him again. He had tried his best to lure her away from Arnav, ingratiating himself with Buaji, slumming it in Laxminagar, but all to no avail. The pair of them actually went and got married and he had nary an inkling of it all.
Of course, he had instantly questioned the veracity of their announcement. But a mini stroll through the pages of IF, that bastion of truth, and that thought, well hope, was summarily dismissed. They were man and wife. Those rabid fangirls kept a tight grip on the minutiae of ASR’s life. Their madness and obsession with him was second only to his own. One of the comments by one Arshi67 had him rolling his eyes at the paagalpan that had engulfed the lot of them at the news.
“That night the bells tolled in agony while the heavens wept. The susurration of the restless wind whispered of the travesty that was being heaped upon the innocent. The rising moon hid behind the darkened clouds, unable to bear witness to two hearts being torn asunder. Each step they took up those temple steps left behind shattered pieces of a nascent hope…”
And they have the temerity to call me manic!
But he knew Arnav and Khush’s marriage was the beginning of the end for his dreams. He could see that. Khushiji was not the sort to run away when times get tough. He knew that much about the dratted girl. She wouldn’t abandon Arnav, wealth or no wealth. She would be right there by his side like an albatross around his, Shyam’s, plans.
The idea to doctor the Will had always been part of his master plan to keep Arnav with him. Getting rid of Anjali would unite them in grief, and with him having a controlling share in AR, he would forever be in Arnav’s life. But, this plan also seemed to have slipped through his fingers like grains of sand. And now the ruins of his dreams were staring at him like that stain on Arnav’s carpet. The diligently cultivated patience of years, fed with the promise of sweet rewards now meant nothing.
They say some dreams remain just that, dreams. Ajeeb to some maybe. Hopes and Ambitions for some maybe. A Temptation to get Entangled in the wistful desires of whispering souls for some maybe…
He let out a howl of agony as his finely tuned devious mind made a valiant last ditch attempt to shake off the thoughts those crazy fangirls were stuffing in, messing with his fine mind, holding his hand and making him write this stuff.
It was no wonder that Shyam Manohar Jha was a worried man.
A bit out there I know, but if Shyamji can’t be out there then who can, right?! Karela or Jalebi, you tell me. This came about because of a comment I’d made on Listed! https://listedbyjigs.wordpress.com/ As always, Jignasha is uppermost in my mind when I write, but a special shout out to @Sherya and @Bookworm for their comments leading to mine in the first place 🙂